The UrbEx phenomenon has produced numerous websites and publications, both as guides for locating particularly enticing ruin sites, and as guides for how to have the kind of experience that explorers seek: namely, to be the first to encounter something not yet valued by others, and to produce a visual record of its ephemerality, while those who come after can only replicate the experience. Exploring the exploration guidebooks themselves offers a unique insight into “how to” have the desired sublime experience long associated with visiting ruins, particularly with reference to urban ruins photography. This chapter will explore the impulse towards routinising desired types of ruin photography and UrbEx adventures through an examination of “how to” UrbEx photography books and websites.
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See Apel, Beautiful, Terrible Ruins, p. 16. In his eponymous catalog for the 2014 Tate Modern exhibit “Ruin Lust,” Brian Dillon writes that Macaulay “resurrected” the term Ruinenlust (p. 5). In her book, Macaulay offers no clues about where she first encountered the word. My own search for the origins of the term, or even a first modern usage, involved dozens of German dictionaries, contemporary as well as historical, none of which listed Ruinenlust. A search in Google Books revealed a single nineteenth-century German usage, in an 1823 German periodical; nor are their appearances of the word in English publications predating Macaulay’s book. However, Enlightenment and Romantic era writers in the West clearly developed the sensibility, even if the dictionaries didn’t bother to keep up.